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Meet the Team
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Heather L. Gomes
Executive Director

As PAL’s Executive Director, Heather is committed to expanding access to the joys and therapeutic benefits of human-animal interactions while honoring the mutuality of the human-animal bond and nurturing a culture of kindness and respect.  Heather grew up surrounded by animal companions of many species and is grateful to her mother for instilling in her a reverence for nature and animals and an understanding of our interconnectedness.  A lifelong advocate for people and animals, Heather has volunteered with a therapeutic horseback riding program, fostered dogs, and practiced law.  She earned a graduate certificate in Animals and Human Health, B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Women’s Studies, and J.D.  A native Washingtonian, Heather currently lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and two dogs, Olivia and Winter.  In her free time, she likes to connect with friends and family, read, travel, watch soccer, and make music playlists.


Melissa Puglisi
Operations Manager

Melissa is PAL’s Operations Manager, ensuring effective day-to-day logistics and planning of in-person PAL visits, communication and management of current and prospective volunteers, database administration, weekly newsletter creation and more. She started with PAL in July 2019 as a volunteer with her golden retriever, Breeze, and joined the staff team in July 2022. She continues to volunteer alongside Breeze at many visits with seniors, students and vulnerable populations. Melissa graduated cum laude from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Media Studies/Communication. She began her professional career after moving to the Washington, DC area in 2009. She is originally from Ft. Walton Beach, FL and currently lives in Ashburn, VA with her husband Joe, and goldens Breeze and Boomer. In her free time, she likes to be outdoors and go to Nationals and Capitals games.

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Kerri Schepers
Coaching & Evaluation Committee Chair

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Lisa Jacques
Visit Requests Committee Chair

Earl Strimple, DVM
Founder & Chairman

Jessica Brede Eisenberg

Toni Billingslea

Sheila Cohen

Gwen Davidow

Evan Gottfried

Dawn Mancuso

Dr. Donna Snyder

Lisa Jacques

Justin Zelikovitz, Esq.

Board of Directors
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